Quick Take: Though some jokes might go over kids' heads, Bolt offers tons of laughs plus enough heart for a case of the warm fuzzies.
Laser vision; super bark; so-cute-it-hurts fuzzy face…Bolt the dog isn't just a wonder pup. He's doggone "awwwwww"-inspiring.
Chalk it up to the magic of CG. Thanks to computers, the adorable-ness factor of animated critters has gone from mere garden-variety cute to off-the-charts irresistible. Bolt's scritchable ears, wagging tail and wet nose are positively, painfully cute. His downy fuzz is practically touchable. Throw in the doggie eyes, a few puppy pounces and John Travolta's voice, and then put the whole thing into 3-D.
Note to the animators: you had me at "Woof, woof."
The story about a pup with delusions of grandeur is pretty darned adorable in its own right. Star of his own TV show, the white shepherd thinks he can stop traffic with his bare paws and leap tall buildings in a single pounce. But really, he's just living the regular doggie life (albeit, "the best gig on earth," according to a cat), as the unwitting star of his own Truman Show, thinking he's saving his person "Penny" from the green-eyed man, but really just netting thrills for a vociferous TV audience. Things get out of paw when Bolt is accidentally thrust into the real world where, without stunt men and special effects guys, he's just ... a dog. That is until he meets up with two companions (hamster-in-a-ball Rhino and stray cat Mittens) and discovers his real magic powers -- the ability to mooch food with an adorable look, forage water from the toilet, and discover the meaning of life through an open car window and an outstretched tongue.
And therein lies the magic of this delightful, funny, often laugh-out-loud gem. Way back in the day, Disney animators showed they knew animals (Who can forget Lady crying to escape her puppy bed?) and here once again they strut their stuff. For Bolt, they studied puppy pouncing and hamster feet to create lovable characters that are all but flesh and blood. Underneath it all is a girl-and-her-dog story of what happens when person falls in love with pup. Anyone who's had a dog will recognize the heart-tugging moments: The droopy face when you leave. The jumping up and down when you come back. The whimper when they're in trouble (do yourself a favor and bring tissues). And, the magic of an animal that, with a mere tilt of its head and a perk of its ears, can make a human get down on all fours and utter words like (insert goofy baby voice here), "Who's my good boy?"
Now that is a super power.
Kids Will Like:
Despite its PG rating, Bolt has "family-friendly" written all over it. Scene-stealer Rhino the Hamster is a hit from the moment his buck-toothed, Plexiglass-enclosed kisser hits the screen, and where there's a favorite animated character, plush can't be far behind. Physical comedy and the sassy snark of Mittens keep even restless kids in place, although in my screening, there was some stirring during dialog-heavy segments near the beginning. All that changed when the three friends (Rhino, Mittens and Bolt) set out on a road trip set to the charming song, "Barking at the Moon." Even little ones caught the heartfelt human/animal connection. Eight-year-old Meghan said the movie was funny, but her favorite part was when Bolt came to Penny's rescue. Offered in 3-D at select theaters, kids (and adults) who enjoy donning the specs might get a kick out of seeing it in 3-D.
Parents Will Like:
Bolt may be a kids' movie, but parents will be happy to see it. Puppy humor appeals to all ages, and Bolt's dog lessons will have mom and dad laughing out loud. A few references to things like method acting and script writing will amuse grownups even if they go over kids' heads. Even cat lovers will have to laugh at Mittens' misadventures.